Category Archives: Food & Recipes

Assaggio, Seattle’s Best Italian Restaurant

*Oops… I started this post over a year ago when we visited Seattle for a major odometer-flip birthday. Better late than never, right? Especially since we’re planning on returning for dinner real soon…

Seattle’s outstanding Italian restaurant, Assaggio, just sort of snuck up on us. It turned out to be, by heaps and hounds, the highlight of our trip.

On our way to the Chihuly Glass Museum, we were reading menus posted outside restaurants, scouting out lunch options, when Amy appeared behind us, organizing something on the sidewalk.

Amy: Coming in for lunch?

Me: Well, we’re giving ‘er a think…

Amy: If you don’t see exactly what you want, we’re flexible.

This turned out to be both an understatement and a promise listed right on the menu.

We had no idea just how happy they would make us, but 2.5 fabulous hours later, we left very, very happy.

Amy turned out to be not only a psychic server, but also the most skilled, accessible and super friendly sommelier we’ve ever encountered.

It all started with the olive oil dipping sauce, stuffed with garlic, sundried tomatoes, capers, rosemary, and possibly heroin, given how mind-bendingly delicious and addictive it was.

Even though it’s served in a cute carafe that pours without dripping, they also provide a SPOON, so obviously we were intended to enjoy the goodies, right?

Amy refilled our olive oil and “goodies” three times. And this for people who “don’t eat carbs.”

Sometimes, you just need to know when to break the rules.

Once it became evident we had solidly marched into the “go big or go home” carb consumption zone, Rick asked Amy if they had any of the bread heels in the kitchen, since nothing, NOTHING, satisfied a carb-deprived palate like a basket of super-crusty fresh Italian bread.

She appeared moments later with ALL the ends, piled blissfully high in a basket, with our second refill of oil.

This is what I mean by Assaggio snuck up on us. I didn’t even realize I should have been taking pictures from the moment we entered. We had already eaten half the basket by the time I thought, “Hey! I think I may need to blog for the first time in forever about this!”

But photos don’t always capture what makes a lifetime-memory meal special. 

It was how Amy, Kelly the bartender, and entire kitchen staff made us feel like instant friends. We laughed, drank wine, sampled way too many fine Italian Amari (Rick and Kelly even created what we believe to be the world’s first “Sicilian Old Fashion”), talked politics, travel, and what it takes to become a master sommelier, and we ate.

Boy, did we eat. A year later, I still remember rolling out of the restaurant in the most delightful carb coma of my lifetime.

Amy and I have now been friends on Facebook for over a year. I snuck along with her amazing trip to Italy last May, commiserated over some distressing wind damage to a cherished tree in her front yard, and delighted in their recent adoption of the world’s most spunky rescue parrot, Miss Mel. So when I say that the “instant friends” experience was authentic, well… #word.

Hot Christmas Ideas

It’s too early for Christmas. I get it.

But the person who posted this on Facebook as a great idea for a stocking stuffer doesn’t play by the “Not A Word Until After American Thanksgiving” rule.

And I immediately thought of at least one person, very dear to my own heartbeat, who could really use a hot sauce keychain fob.

And he’s not easy to buy for.

So, not being one to let the Gift Muse go without a fight, I ignored the calendar and dug deeper.

And I discovered nothing says “I love you” more than the purity of a classic: Cholulua Hot Sauce.

Of course, “I love you more!” is Cholula Hot Sauce sold by the half gallon.

If you have someone on your gift list that resonates with the song, “One Scoville Over the Line,” it turns out there’s a whole swath of gift options for your hot sauce fans.

… like this 24-pack of 1/8 oz Mini Tabasco Original Pepper Sauce in real fancy little glass bottles.

Here’s what we’re talking about: critical mobility that no stinkin’ new smartphone is going to serve up.

If your blister-lipped lovely prefers to maybe not look like someone who has been saving up Denny’s serving-size condiments, an actual gift-boxed set might be more appropriate.

At this point, some of you may be thinking, “I don’t get it, Big Dan. What is it about busting a sweat, sneezing uncontrollably, becoming alarmingly red in the face, surreptitiously licking a napkin, and occasionally beating a swift beeline for a piece of unbuttered bread makes a meal more enjoyable?”

Don’t judge.

Observe the sommelier-like reverence reflected in the descriptions of the 4 sauces offered in the Ghost Pepper Habanero Hot Sauce Gift Box above:

Bhut Kisser – Award winning ghost pepper hot sauce. Fiery Food Challenge winner in the Ghost Pepper Category. 

Bee Sting – Bee Sting Ghost Pepper Honey Hot Sauce is very unique and very hot. An initial burst of sweetness from the honey followed by an incredibly intense ghost pepper heat. 

The Defibrillator – Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce. Ghost Peppers, Habanero, and Smoked Serrano. Slightly smokey and very hot. 

Habanero Head – Habanero hot sauce flavor with a hint of smokiness, garlic and intense habanero heat. 

This is love, people, even if you don’t get the appeal. Some of the best gifts ever come from a place of supporting the very places where we most differ.

Or perhaps you like to please your pepper popper AND inject a little family engagement into the Christmas festivities?

Gotcha covered with the always-a-hit Ass Kickin Hot Sauce Challenge Book of Pleasure and Pain. Fun for kids of all ages!

For those who like some crunch with the punch, these nuts are Da Bomb.

Or maybe you’re thinking, “Yes, but where’s the fire-breathing beef jerky?”

And even if everyone else in the house is on the trendy “Eat Bland and You’ll Be Grand!” diet, no one will fault your loved one for their adult beverage choice. This Bloody Mary lover’s gift set.

Honestly, at some point, my research led to increasingly sketchy outposts.

I had accidentally wandered into the corner of the store where only every third light was working, and some of those flickered dangerously in the murky, echoing aisle.

And then I made a mad dash towards the light before the dragon got me.

And now you’re on your own until after Thanksgiving.

Questions for Amazon customer service when you can’t find the answer online? Here’s the Amazon customer service phone number: 1-888-280-4331

Buttermilk: The Beautiful Food You’ve Been Ignoring

Fermented milk.

Tangy, regionally identifiable like a fine cheese, a solid substitute for sour cream…

What’s not to love?

Given an impromptu run to the The Butcher Block, the availability of fresh local free-range chickens, and the always-at-hand Joy of Cooking (p. 429), Rick decided to tackle Buttermilk Deep Fried Chicken.

I own it: I was personally responsible for both the snickered section of delectable crispy skin above, and the blisters on the roof of my mouth.

I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I wish I could say I’d shot the outdoor-kitchen cooking thereof, but sometimes, what happens on Vancouver Island stays on Vancouver Island.

To sum up: t’was fun and insanely delish.

Anyhoo, we had leftover chicken and buttermilk.

Cue the home-made chicken soup.

Enter the Joy of Cooking’s Buttermilk Biscuits (p. 639).

Oh. My.

Nori Sushi Nanaimo Restaurant Review

At 1:20 on a Saturday afternoon, the hostess put down the phone and called out to the staff at large, “No more reservations tonight!”

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Nori Sushi is just that kind of place. The chefs call out genuine greetings to patrons as they cross the threshold, orders are sung out from the other side of the room, the phone rings frequently, and there’s a constant happy burble of delighted diners chowing down on amazing Japanese food. And the place was already sold out for the night.

In Nanaimo. On Vancouver Island. In early April. I guess offering the best sushi and sashimi on the Island in a casual ambiance with a welcoming vibe at fair prices will do that for you.

Tip #1: Make a reservation for a Saturday night dinner.

Yesterday they had red tuna available, so the tuna tataki above was even more melt-in-your-mouth outstanding than usual.

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We had the pleasure of sitting at the bar where we could watch Kenny and James pull culinary magic out of plain rice and raw fish. Well, perhaps there’s a bit more to it than that.

It’s the perfectly cooked, slightly warm rice and fanatically-fresh cool fish. It’s the palpable pride in their craft, and the enthusiastic and upbeat front- and back-of-house teamwork. These are what make Nori TripAdvisor’s “#1 in Restaurants in Nanaimo.”

I really hadn’t planned to write this review when we first decided to nip in for lunch, so I let the delicious miso soup and tuna karrage appetizer drift away with our idle chitchat about shopping for brass hose bibs and onions.

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I even neglected to take note of the brand of warm sake we ordered. (Gekkeikan, it turns out. And I’ll just leave this right here in case anyone’s taking note of Christmas gift ideas for us.)

At $8.99 for the medium bottle shared between the two of us, it was a GREAT choice with our meal.

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But then James set our Dragon Roll down in front of us, and I started to pay attention.
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At first, I was just taken with the delicate (and delicious!) flash-fried lotus root chips, and how much I was looking forward to the slightly salty “pop!” each one of those red and black flying fish roe would make in my mouth. Why, I wondered, did James use two different colored roe?

Then I looked again and saw the dragon, with its mouth open wide and its lotus-root wings furled out at the base of its long neck.

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I asked James, and he explained that the “red” (they look more orange to me) are the regular “tobiko,” and the black are the same thing, just dyed black with octopus ink.

I learned something important about sushi yesterday: there’s more to the art than slapping around some sticky rice, fish, and seaweed and calling it “maki.”

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There’s art…

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… and propane torches.

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James explained that the heat works to quickly pull forth and meld the oils from the fish, avacado, and their house-made Japanese aioli. He also said several other things about why they do it, but by this time, I was into full blown “photo composition” mode and missed it.

Sorry, but trust us: this is, bar none, the best sushi we’ve ever eaten, and if James says “torch it,” then torch it.

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If you’re a foodie at all, the sushi bar at Nori offers front row seats at a live Cirque Du Inspiration.

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I would just be thinking “Oh, no you didn’t!” and be snapping surreptitious iPhotos (at least, I hope I was a little surreptitious and not a complete pain in the patooty to my fellow diners) and be ready to burst into wildly inappropriate applause, and James would quietly say, “Not done yet.”

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I have no idea what this thing of beauty is called, but I’m going to show them this picture next time we’re in and say, “This, please.”

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And more of this, too, please.

Tip #2: Go easy on the soya sauce and wasabi “dunk,” or at least try a piece first as it’s delivered to your table. The chefs at Nori take great care to marry just the right flavors, textures, and temperatures in their offerings, and if a dish needs wasabi, it’s already there under the fish. If you habitually drown everything in super salty wasabi soup, you’ll be missing a whole world of wonderful.

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In sushi as in figure skating, chefs are scored on originality as well as degree of technical difficulty. Nori has obviously put in their 10,000 hours of practice on both.

James is proud to be there. He told us he was there to learn everything he could from John, the gregarious and high-energy owner, and that it all starts with the quality of the fish.

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We asked James how they source their fish, and he says that it’s delivered to them, but they make their vendors compete to ensure they are always presented with the highest quality fish that’s available in our market.

This salmon nigiri tiptoed on to our taste buds in silk-bottomed ninja slippers.

No words.

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Thanks, John, and your staff, for another great meal.

Just one final question: when are you going to offer a cooking class?

6750 Island Hwy, Unit #203 (Right in front of Costco)
Nanaimo, BC V9V 1S3

Phone: 250-751-3377

Wednesday & Thursday: 11:30 – 2:30, 5:00 – 9:30
Friday & Saturday: 11:30 – 2:30, 5:00 – 10:00
Sunday & Holidays: 12:00 – 2:30, 5:00 – 9:30
Closed Monday & Tuesday. (I love that their staff gets two predictable days off every week.)

Easy Basil Pesto Recipe

Hi. My name is Kathy, and I’m a pesto-holic.

Remember all that incredible fresh basil we celebrated as a reason why God invented homemade pasta? Turns out we just couldn’t eat that much pasta or pizza before the basil began whispering, “Winter is coming. Pesto me, baby… pesto me.”

Pesto is the magical synthesis of the Flavor of Green, the Curative Clean of Garlic, the Warmth of Nut, the Peace of Parmesan, and the Umami of Olive Oil.


classic basil pesto recipe (per Cook’s Illustrated) involves pulsing until smooth the following ingredients in a food processor, and then stirring in 1/4 cup parmesan cheese:

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds, previously toasted in a heavy skillet until golden and fragrant, 4-5 min
  • 3 blanched medium garlic cloves (45 seconds in boiling water, rinse in cold, peel and mince)
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (“bruised” before use by pounding in a sealable plastic bag with a rolling pin)
  • 2 tablespoons packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional for color)
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

According to Cook’s Illustrated, blanching “tamed” the garlic while bludgeoning the basil boosted its herbaliciousness. Our version is way less precious, easier, and absolutely delicious, but then again, we like our garlic on the feisty side.Pesto-2
Rick and Kathy’s Easy Basil Pesto Recipe

  1. Fill almost to the top of the handle of your Cuisinart food processor (here’s why Cook’s Illustrated chose it and so did we) with fresh washed and dried basil, or use half basil and half baby spinach. We’ve tried both, and they are equally fabulous.
  2.  Add 1/2 c. high quality olive oil and 1/3 c. raw walnuts, 1/2 tsp. salt and fresh ground pepper. Pulse until mostly smooth.
  3.  Add 1/2 c. parmesan cheese and pulse until blended. Adjust salt if necessary.

Oh, my.

Store in the fridge (up to 5 days, but it won’t last that long) with some plastic wrap pressed down so it makes contact with the surface to prevent excessive darkening.

As my basil was waning, I harvested it all this week and made several batches.

I took what I wanted to freeze and divided it into ice cube trays and covered tightly with plastic wrap before freezing for a couple of hours. I then took the frozen pesto cubes and used a vacuum sealer (our review here) to preserve as much color and flavor as possible, and popped them back into the freezer.

Pasta Machine-1Vacuum-sealed fresh basil in February, baby. Oh yeah.

Try it in its classic incarnation as a pasta sauce, adding 1/4 c. of reserved hot pasta water to the pesto to loosen it up a bit and soften and blend the flavors before coating the drained pasta.

But it’s safe get out on the ledge a bit here, too.

Try it on everything from crackers to omelets—sublime when tucked in with spinach, parm cheese, and avocado—to salmon as a delicious crusty coating, layered on like icing before baking/broiling.

Apparently, it also goes well with fingers.

Pasta Machines: Cooks Illustrated vs Amazon vs Good Housekeeping

Last week I was struck with an overwhelming desire for fresh, homemade egg pasta because…

Pasta Machine-1… basil.

Question: Is pasta bad for you? Answer: Hell, no!

Is it made fresh, with love, from four of the most basic kitchen staples and make you happy you’re alive?

Does it inspire you to consume armfulls of verdant summer herbs at their height of greenliness and a glass of a good Italian red?

Is it easy, cheap, delicious, and fun to make?

Pasta Machine-2
Well. There you go, then.

Even our Italian-made pasta machine knows that eaten in moderation, fresh pasta brings wellness into your life.

This is why it’s confusing to us that, to date, neither Cook’s Illustrated nor Consumer Reports has reviewed the humble manual pasta machine. (We’ll keep an eye out and let you know if either one ever weighs in with their “highly recommended” or “best buy.”)

When we wanted to buy one a couple of years ago, we were left to our own sleuthing and landed on the Amazon favorite, the Marcato Atlas Wellness 150 pasta maker.

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Simple, safe, and satisfying to use, the Marcato pasta roller and cutter brings one thing to the game that a rolling pin and knife combo never will: consistency.

To qualify as comfort food, the noodles must be of a consistent thickness and width, bite after bite. There’s something about the hypnotic bliss of excellent pasta that demands an unvarying mouthfeel.

It’s why great restaurants care about evenly diced ingredients. Turns out, size really does matter.

Marcato Atlas Wellness 150 Pasta Maker

And for the home kitchen chef in search of consistency, sometimes machines are just better. In the case of manual pasta makers, almost 1000 Amazon reviewers rated the Marcato Atlas a whopping 4.7 stars of approval.

Kitchenaid Pasta Roller Attachment
Fits Stand Mixers

If you’re more into the motorized kind of fun and have a KitchenAid stand mixer (and as a foodie’s kitchen “must have,” you should!), there are pasta attachments that fit the power hub on your machine. The crew at Amazon love theirs: another 4.7 star recipient here across more than 800 purchasers.

By the way, just because a Good Housekeeping article on cool retro-styled kitchen appliances includes a pasta machine, in this case the Roma Express Electric Pasta Machine , that doesn’t mean it’s actually cool.

Weston Roma Express Electric Pasta Machine

Cute, red, and vaguely reminiscent of Rosie, the maid on the Jetsons? You betcha!

But for our money and kitchen, we go with brains and performance before beauty. At a measly 3.4 star-rating on Amazon, the Weston  just doesn’t measure up. Any product that scores a 1-star rating for 27% of the reviewers definitely falls into the category of “proceed with caution.”

(On the other hand, this darling ceramic tea kettle Good Housekeeping also lists in the same article… Oooh, baby!)

Philips Pasta Maker

Finally, for those among us who prefer homemade fresh pasta only if it’s coupled with almost zero engagement, experience, or kitchen mess, Williams-Sonoma has high praise for the electric pasta machine by Philips, their all-in-one pasta whiz, and guess what? 4.7 stars on Amazon too.

You put the weighed ingredients in the top, push the button, and… presto! Like magic, the machine kneads, rests, and starts extruding pot-ready perfect pasta.

While Rick and I can see that this approach has its appeal for many of our friends, we like to play with our food. And besides, we already have a no-mess pasta mixing and kneading machine to go along with our wellness maker:

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… our Cuisinart food processor.

Whether you go with hand cut, manual roller and cutter, or all new-fangled electric, if you’ve got one of these babies in your kitchen, you are just moments away from fresh egg pasta dough.

Watch how easy it is to make and cook pasta.

Pasta Machine-4Lidia Bastianich, Queen of All Italian Cooking, lays out a helpful fresh pasta dough recipe on a per person basis: one egg per person, combined with between 1/2 and 2/3 cup flour (start with 1/2), 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. olive oil.

That means for Rick and me, we start with 2 eggs, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp oil. (If you’ve only got refrigerator temp eggs when you start, pop them into a bowl of warm tap water while you’re getting things set up to bring them closer to room temperature, but no biggie if they’re a bit on the cooler side.)

Pasta Machine-6In a Pyrex 2-cup measuring cup, combine the eggs, salt, and oil, whipping them until they’re foamy.

Pasta Machine-8Put the flour in the Cuisinart with the metal blade, turn it on, then drizzle the egg/salt/oil mixture into the top.

Pasta Machine-9Run the Cuisinart until the dough forms into a rough ball, about 30-40 seconds. If the dough remains pebbly and refuses to collect into a ball, add just a dribble (seriously) of warm water, giving the processor a good chance to thoroughly incorporate the moisture before deciding it needs an additional dose.

If the dough is sticking to the work bowl, add more flour, 1 tbsp. at a time, until the dough looks something like ours above.

Don’t worry too much about over-processing the dough while you decide if the texture is right. It’s not that precious.

Pasta Machine-11When you think you’re close, take the dough out of the processor and give it several good kneads with the heel of your hand, flipping and folding it on itself between pushes until you have a warm ball of silken wellness.

See why we prefer a little manual interaction with our pasta? Why should a machine have all the fun?!

Give the gluten a time out to calm itself  by fully encasing the dough with plastic wrap and letting it sit on the counter for an hour or so. (This will keep you from fighting in the rolling/cutting stage with what Lidia calls “nervous dough.”) It can also sit in a fridge for a day, but be sure to let it warm to room temp before proceeding to the next step.

Pasta Machine-13Cut and hand roll the dough into two smaller balls per egg used. In our case, we ended up making two separate batches, four eggs in total, so we had eight smaller balls waiting to be processed.

Pasta Machine-14You’ll be working with one ball at a time, so keep the rest covered on a floured baking sheet while they wait their turn.

Pasta Machine-15Flatten the ball into an oval patty, set the thickness regulator to three, and crank it through.

Pasta Machine-16Fold it in half lengthwise and send ‘er through again.

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Sprinkle both sides evenly with a little flour between rollings to keep the dough from sticking,

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Change the setting to six, and roll again, or even a couple of times to get a consistent thickness across the whole sheet of dough.

We’ve tried settings of five, six, and seven, and for the flat noodle, six seems to work best. For spaghetti, you might want to go a little thicker and use a setting of five on the regulator.

Pasta Machine-20Attach the cutter device by sliding it into the brackets on the machine. Move the crank to the appropriate hole on the attachment, and feed in the rolled dough.

Pasta Machine-21For ease of laying out the noodles to dry, it can be helpful (and fun!) to have a buddy on hand to neatly catch and hold flat the noodles as they emerge. Even if you’re on your own, you can switch cranking hands and catch them yourself, or simply let them fall into a nest and dry them that way. They will separate just fine either way as they cook.

Pasta Machine-22We laid the flat noodles we were planning to eat in a few hours on a floured baking sheet in a (mostly) single layer to dry.

Pasta Machine-23For the spaghetti we were planning on eating later in the week, we took each batch as it emerged directly into the utility room and hung it on our freshly wiped laundry rack so it would dry completely before we stored it in ziplock bags.

If you’re into making more than one batch at a time, you might want to invest in a nifty foldable drying rack, but so far, we haven’t felt like pasta for dinner on laundry day, so we’re good.

Pasta Machine-24Bring a good-sized pot of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil, drop your noodles in, and cook uncovered, stirring gently a couple or three times.

For thinner, finer noodles, start testing (fish out a noodle and bite it) at 90-seconds. It’s okay if the pasta is still just a teensy bit firm as it will continue to absorb moisture and soften from the sauce.

For thicker noodles, cook two minutes and begin testing until you like the feel of it between your teeth.

Drain the noodles, reserving a few tablespoons of the water to add to the sauce to bring a beautiful gloss to the whole gig. Don’t rinse the noodles as it will prevent the sauce from adhering to them.

Pasta Machine-25Return the hot noodles to the pot and gently fold in enough of your sauce to amply coat them.

Pasta Machine-28Using tongs, lift the noodles and twist them into a nest as you drop it into place to build a little height into the presentation.

Top with a generous extra dollop of sauce and sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese if you’re so inclined.

Grab the camera and shoot like crazy while it’s still steaming, because it’s dinner time, and…

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… basil.



Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen

Our copy looks better than this. There are smears of egg-flour-and-water paste permanently lodged on Lidia’s beautiful Italian left cheekbone and chin, exactly as they would be in real life.

Sous Vide Machines: Cooks Illustrated vs Amazon vs Good Housekeeping

One of Rick’s more profound theories of life is this: “Things lead to things.”

The fact that we now own the Cook’s Illustrated “highly recommended” sous vide machine, the Anova Precision Cooker, is a perfect example of Rick’s Theory of Thingage in action.

Sous Vide-2Here’s how it went down, this time:

We had recently moved near a Costco, started buying mozzarella cheese and fresh salmon in bulk, and found ourselves shelling out for a kitchen vacuum sealer.

In addition to learning about the best and worst of vacuum sealers, our research also revealed that vacuum bagged foods were “perfect for sous vide cooking.”

Well, that’s just dandy! And here we thought we were just buying a vacuum sealer to portion and preserve 25-lb bags of coffee beans and raw almonds into household-of-two portions.

Um… remind me again what “sous vide” cooking is?

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Sous vide—French for “under vacuum”—is a simple, fuss-free and time-tested way to slow cook food sealed in airtight plastic bags. It uses longer and lower temperatures than normal in a precisely temperature-controlled water bath that’s heated to the food’s desired final temperature.

Sous vide cooking gently locks in essential juices and amplifies flavor (and exquisite textures) while preserving vital water-soluble nutrients and improving food safety (no guessing!).

The method is used in everything from poached eggs (reportedly producing amazing yolk textures unattainable by any other means) to delicate fish to custards to chicken to vegetables and even tricky “easy to overcook/dry out” cuts of inexpensive meat such as flank steak.

Better food with less fuss? Sign us up.

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We wanted a sous vide machine that, a) didn’t break the bank and, b) we could find room to store in our kitchen.

Both requirements were met by passing on the bulky and more expensive “water ovens” that have been the only options, until recently.

Instead, the answer lay in the more affordable, flexible, and storage-friendly stick “immersion circulator” styles, a conclusion that both Cook’s Illustrated and Good Housekeeping came to in their reviews and recommendations.

Anova Culinary Precision Cooker

(Technically speaking, the December 2014 Cook’s Illustrated “highly recommended” winner was the “Anova One,” but good luck finding one! Per, the Anova One has been discontinued and has been replaced by the Anova Precision Cooker. Cook’s has committed to testing this new Anova soon. Stay tuned: we’ll update as soon as their results are in. Meanwhile, we’re loving the new model.)

At a current 4.5 star rating with over 300 reviews, the Amazon community thinks highly of this option. And at a (relatively) modest price tag of ~$180 USD, the Anova Precision Immersion Circulator—and sous vide cooking in general—is now within reach of us mere mortals, as opposed to being the quiet little secret of high-end restaurant chefs.

Even-tempered, quiet, gentle, a quick clean, and low maintenance… the Anova would make a terrific roommate.

Good Housekeeping reviewed two different sous vide machines, the Sansaire and the Nomiku.

Sansaire Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Good Housekeeping gave them both an enthusiastic thumbs up without expressing a preference between the two. Great! But, not that helpful if you just want to know what the best sous vide machine is.

Once again, the Cook’s review shed some light on things. They ranked the Sansaire as their second-placed “recommended” option, and here’s why:

It’s about the outport, the vent where the water is circulated back into the pot after a trip around the heating element. The Sansaire has a fixed outport, meaning you can’t adjust where the flow of water is aimed in the container. The Anova, on the other hand, has a rotatable outport, meaning if the water churn is too vigorous for delicate items, you can rotate it to deflect against the wall of the pot instead of directly into the water.  This is, apparently, important if you don’t want your eggs to jostle audibly (and one presumes, in a manner threatening breakage) against the wall of the cooking container.

Albeit with roughly one third the number of reviewers, the review crew at Amazon rank the slightly more expensive Sansaire with a shade higher rating (4.6 stars) than the Anova. Why a higher ranking? This is not known at this time.

What is known is that no one reviewing the Sansaire complained about noisy eggs.

Nomiku Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Cook’s Illustrated placed the Nomiku in their “recommended with reservations” spot, citing the squint-inducing “postage-stamp sized” display and narrower (and this is an important factor) water maximum-to-minimum range that meant more frequent monitoring and refills during a multi-day cooking task.

Amazonians were only so-so about the Nomiku, giving it 3.7 stars over ~180 reviews. Meh.

Enough about the machinery. Here’s how our first foray into Sous Vide Land went.

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We decided to try our new Anova out on the inexpensive $8 eye-of-round roast that Rick cut into 2-inch thick steaks.

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A healthy dose of salt and pepper on both sides—with our aromatic-of-choice, a sprig of fresh rosemary—as seasoning…

Sous Vide-6… a quick pit stop at our FoodSaver V3840 to seal in all the lean yet juicy loveliness, and into the tub they went for their 131° 24-hour water spa treatment. (More on time and temperature below.)

BTW, the Anova was super easy to use:

  • Clamp to stock pot or other suitable container
  • Fill with lukewarm-to-warmish (below the desired cooking temperature) water to somewhere between the “maximum” and “minimum” lines, depending on how big your bagged goodie is
  • Plug it in
  • For our North American buddies: hold down the “play” button for three seconds to switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit, or vice versa for the flipside
  • Dial the front wheely thing to the desired temperature
  • Hit “play”
  • Go away for anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 days, depending on what you’re cooking

Sous Vide-8(In a complete aside: dontcha love the chef poster Rick painted?)

To make sure the bagged meat stayed totally submerged during the process, we clamped the bags in place, per a random online recommendation (probably from a Sansaire user). In hindsight, the circulation feature wasn’t torrential enough  to make that 100% necessary, but hey… safety first.

On that note, be sure to read the Anova manual before starting use, which clearly states, and I quoth directly from the Anova Precision Cooker user manual:

Sous Vide-16
Whoops! Luckily, we caught it in the first hour of operation. We whipped our immersion circulation-enhanced stock pot off our brand-new Cambria quartz countertop and on to our trusty, indestructible butcher block. No harm, no foul.

Right around the same time that we discovered the kitchen safety info, we also stumbled on a food safety recommendation, which said that the minimal temperature necessary to safely heat meat for the length of time we had planned is 131°F.

Rightio. Two clicks forward of the handy temp wheel, and there we were at 131°F for the next 23.5 hours.

About 14 hours into the process, we noticed that the water level had diminished slightly due to evaporation, so we topped it up a little and loosely tented a piece of aluminum foil at the top of our stock pot, but other than that, it was a completely hands-off gig.

Sous Vide-9A full 24-hours later and this is what we removed from the bag: an inexpensive cut of beef cooked to a perfect medium.

However, as is the case for all sous vide meats, the external presentation needed a little touch up via a quick sear (think hot grill, hot pan, deep fry, etc.) to add that crispy, flavorful layer that every carnivore craves.

Fancy Schmancy Kitchen Torch Attachment

Apparently, there’s a fancy schmancy kitchen torch attachment that you clamp on to a standard propane cylinder torch that will make the searing even more exciting official effective, but we don’t have the fancy schmancy gizmo —yet—so Rick seared them briefly on both sides in a lightly-oiled saute pan.
Sous Vide-10I meant to take a photo of the meat getting its quick sear, but somehow I got distracted and lost the moment.

Oh well.

I now have this exquisite photo of one of my favorite things: an upturned sleeve snugged firmly against the very cherished forearm of a lovely man cooking me a delicious dinner.


It was moist, flavorful, tender and perfect all the way through.

 Sous Vide-14From Michael Pollan in “Food Rules” to gurus in Psychology Today, those in the know are saying that it’s a good idea to leave a little food on your plate at the end of a meal.

I don’t think this is what they meant, but I did force myself not to eat it anyway, just for the sake of personal discipline.

I gave it to Winston instead.

Helpful Sous Vide Resources

Sous Vide Cookbooks

Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide

This is a well-rated and gorgeously produced volume by Thomas Keller, chef and author of The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon among others. According to the official review by Arthur Boehm:

The book makes no bones about being addressed to professionals. Typical recipes, like Marinated Toy Box Tomatoes with Compressed Cucumber-Red Onion Relish, Toasted Brioche, and Diane St. Claire Butter, involve multiple preparations and dernier cri ingredients, and thus resist home duplication.

Given we have no idea what “dernier cri” ingredients might be—”behind the scream”?—we don’t want ’em and are more interested in the simple, fuss-free aspects of sous vide cooking, so we’re leaving this one on the shelf at Amazon.

However, if you’ve got a coffee table book-loving, trend-conscious foodie on your Christmas list, go for it!


Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide

Published in 2014 (aka, newer) and available in paperback for around $20 (Kindle for $10), this more modest tome by passionate home cook, Jason Logsdon, gets high marks from reviewers looking for a solid primer with easy recipes.

Sous Vide Cooking Timing Chart

One of the first things we noticed about our new Anova Precision Cooker was, well, its precision. The temperature is calibrated to 0.1°, which instantly appealed to the geek in both of us as we imagined the prospect of producing perfect, predictable results with any food we cook.

But, as is the case for the rest of life, it’s always a bit more complicated than that.

Yes, the Anova Precision Cooker will keep a water bath at a precise temperature for a specific time period, but good luck finding a time/temperature chart that’s equally exact!

When searching the web for guidance on how long to cook our first dish (the 2″ thick eye of round steaks above) and at what temperature, we noticed right away that different “authoritative” sources don’t seem to agree on much of anything except how to cook root vegetables (183°F or so for 1-4 hours-ish):


Beef Roast (Med Rare)

Beef Brisket (Med Rare)
Pork Roast
Baby Back Ribs
Leg of Lamb (Med Rare)
Chicken Breast
Chicken (Dark Meat)
Egg (Creamy Yolk)
Egg (Thick Yolk)
Egg (Hard Yolk)
Root Vegetables
Fruit (Apple)
Sources: Anova, Codlo, ChefSteps

Interestingly, we also noted that most of the temperature recommendations we found were well below the thresholds considered safe by the USDA:

Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures

Beef / Pork / Veal / Lamb
Fish / Shellfish
Source: USDA

How could the range be so wide, especially when sous vide enthusiasts tout the added safety benefits of the method? Not to mention our own experience, which is that we wouldn’t have wanted the steak any more well done than it was, and that was accomplished at a max temp of 131°F?

We discovered the explanation to the temperature/food safety riddle in this chart that shows the “Danger Zone” for harmful bacteria (salmonella and E. coli).

According to the chart, bacteria is killed instantly at 145°F. Given that the USDA is responsible for providing recommendations to everyone in the U.S. cooking everything by every method, this is logically where they must weigh in for meat.

However, the nasty bacteria will also be killed off eventually at temperatures above 130°F, given adequate sustained cooking time. It’s the combination of time and temperature that yields food that’s safe, for sure, to eat.


But what about the wide range of target sous vide cooking times and temperatures recommended by different sous vide authorities?

Our conclusion is that sous vide cooking is part art, part science, part personal preference in food “doneness,” and part learning how to partner effectively and safely with a new machine in your kitchen.

Bottom line: we’re just going to have to enjoy spending a bunch more time hanging out in our kitchen together as we figure out what works best, for us.

Good Housekeeping review: What the Heck Is Sous Vide?

Cook’s Illustrated: Sous Vide Machines Review